The Philippines may consider two-way talks with China to resolve a territorial dispute in the South China Sea but only if it wins its case with Beijing at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, Manila's foreign minister said on Friday.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan also claim the waterways where about $5 trillion of ship-borne goods passes annually.
China refuses to recognise the case lodged by the Philippines with the tribunal and says all disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks.
Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario, who has resigned effective next month due to health reasons, said the court may hand down a ruling before May.
"A bilateral approach per se is good," del Rosario said in a television interview, three years after Manila filed the case in The Hague, rejecting Beijing's offer of two-way talks.
"When the conclusion of the arbitration is handed down, and if it is in our favour, I think we should initiate a bilateral because we already have a platform by which we can solidly approach the negotiating table. If it's not in our favour, they will approach us."
Reporting by Manuel Mogato